Federal Judge Denies DOJ Request for Injunction on Texas Abortion Law

A federal judge on Thursday denied the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) motion to temporarily halt Texas' abortion ban (SB 8) and ruled that the October 1 hearing on the matter will not be rescheduled sooner, leaving the state's new controversial law in place for at least the next two weeks.

Rather than rule on the DOJ's injunction request right away, Judge Robert Pitman set a hearing for October to hear arguments on whether to allow the restraining order, according to The Texas Tribune. The following day, September 16, Pitman denied the Justice Department's opposed motion for an expedited briefing that hoped to move the hearing up.

In his order, Pitman, an Obama appointee, said that Texas "wished to be heard." He issued a signed statement giving the state until September 29 to make its case opposing the DOJ request while the department can respond before October 1.

Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said that the judge seemed to be going by the book.

"The Court of Appeals already cut off his effort to hold a similar hearing in the challenge to SB 8 brought by Texas abortion providers," Vladeck said on CNN. "By not issuing a temporary restraining order here, he's effectively preventing Texas from asking the Court of Appeals to also block this hearing before it happens."

The DOJ argued for an injunction citing the violation of women's constitutional rights.

"Because all providers in Texas are adhering to SB 8 the vast majority of women seeking abortions in Texas are being turned away," the DOJ said. "All the while, clinics in neighboring states are receiving panicked calls from patients in Texas and continue to see 'large increases in minor patients, survivors of sexual assault, patients with a maternal or fetal diagnosis, and patients with later gestational ages."

Protestors Rally Against Restrictive New Texas Abortion
On September 16, a federal judge denied the Department of Justice's request for an injunction on Texas abortion law. Above, protesters hold up signs at a protest against the abortion law outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty

By the time the injunction hearing is held, the Texas law that bans abortion as soon as a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, usually around six weeks—before most people know they're pregnant—will have been in effect for one month.

The law passed following a Supreme Court vote of 5-4. At the time, the Supreme Court said it was not ruling on the bill's constitutionality but was refusing to block its passage.

In response, the Biden administration vowed to take down the law. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit over the bill alleging that it violates the 14th amendment and a U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Attorneys general from 23 other states also called on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to rule in favor of the DOJ.

Renae Eze, Texas Governor Greg Abbott's press secretary, told The Hill they were "confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life."

"The most precious freedom is life itself. Texas passed a law that ensures that the life of every child with a heartbeat will be spared from the ravages of abortion," Eze said in a statement on Thursday. "Unfortunately, President Biden and his Administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn."

The Texas law relies on private citizens to enforce the abortion ban by allowing them to sue people suspected of performing abortions and can be awarded $10,000 with their legal fees and expenses paid for.

It also allows anyone suspected of "aiding and abetting" an individual who chooses to receive an abortion to be sued by a private citizen. Any person who helps pay for an abortion, drives someone to the facility or even works in an abortion clinic can be targeted for a lawsuit.

There is no exception for rape or incest but SB 8 does provide an exemption for "medical emergencies."